Mary Lundeberg read a story more than a year ago in the Pioneer Press that struck her as fertile ground for a children's book.
The story began in Fish Lake Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, Wis., where a trumpeter swan was found suffering from a shotgun wound, likely days from death.
The bird was captured, rehabilitated and released back into the wildlife area. But his mate - swans mate for life - was nowhere to be found.
Weeks later, the pair were discovered reunited in Hudson - about 60 miles away.
"I started writing the book in my head after I read the article in the newspaper and thought, 'Wow, that would make a great children's book,' " said Lundeberg, a science education professor at the University of Wisconsin-River
Together with Lake Elmo photographer Tammy Wolfe, she spun the 2010 story into "Spirit of the Swan," now available for the Kindle e-book reader on Amazon.com.
"It is a story about love, and it is a story of loss," said Lundeberg, of River Falls. "It's also a story of how swans make excellent parents, how they nurture their young and teach them how to forage and trumpet and fly and express what I think is a joyful approach to life."
About 45 photographs, mostly shot by Lundeberg and Wolfe, illustrate the story. Lundeberg said she's in talks with publishers and hopes to have "Spirit of the Swan" in bookstores this summer.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, which is frequented by trumpeter swans and is near where the injured swan - called 88F for the number on the band placed on him - was found shot.
"The book itself is really nice," said Kim Wheeler, natural resource educator at Crex Meadows. "The photos are great."
Wolfe has been photographing trumpeter swans since 2004.
"They're kind of my passion," she said. "I just think they're beautiful, and I like their behavior."
Lundeberg, also a photographer, said she asked Wolfe to collaborate with her on the book after seeing some of Wolfe's swan photos, which she described as "phenomenal."
"Spirit of the Swan" is told from the viewpoint of a cygnet belonging to the pair of swans, though it's believed they did not have any at the time of the shooting.
"I thought it would be much more interesting to children to tell it from the perspective of a young swan," Lundeberg said.
She added that her goal was to teach children about nature through the narrative.
"I think a lot of the nonfiction books that we have for children are rather boring in that they present facts but don't tell a story," she said.
"There are lots of themes in the book," Lundeberg added, "like love, loss, joy of life, appreciation of nature, the courage to move on, interdependence of creatures, the cycle of life. I think they're wonderful lessons to be learned by both children and adults."
Wolfe said she hopes the book also will bring attention to lead poisoning, which commonly kills the birds.
Two months after he was reunited with his mate, 88F died from lead poisoning. Lundeberg's story doesn't include his death, but she mentions his lead poisoning in the afterword.
"I consulted with several children's (literature) professors when I was writing this story, and they thought it would be better to not leave that part in," Lundeberg said.
Wolfe said she's watched many swans die a slow and painful death from lead poisoning, commonly caused when the birds eat lead fishing sinkers
"It's such a tragedy," she said.
But there is also hope for trumpeter swans, a once-endangered species in Wisconsin, in "Spirit of the Swan," Lundeberg said.
"It shows that even though humans can virtually wipe out a species in an area, we also have the resources to repopulate that area," she said. "I think that's just a wonderful conservation story."
The Kindle version of the book sells for $3.99 on Amazon.com and is free to Amazon Prime members. It can be found at http://amzn.to/HbEpJw.
Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121. Follow him at twitter.com/andyrathbun.